And so the pact of timelessness between us was broken and I went from him into the darkening tunnel of the year – Farley Mowat
Yesterday, a great Canadian writer, Farley Mowat, passed away. He lived a long and meaningful life. His impact on mine began a long time ago.
When I was about 8 years old, my mother, a journalist, went to interview Farley Mowat and she took me with her. I’m not exactly sure why I was able to go with her, but it was not unusual for me to be with my mom, a single parent, when she was working. One of my earliest – and fondest memories – was sitting on the floor while she recorded a piece for CBC radio.
This event, this interview, was at a time when I was beginning to question things like Santa Claus and other magical aspects of childhood. And yet, I was fortunate enough to meet a great storyteller, who coincidentally had a big beard and a ruddy face – undoubtedly from years of living outdoors. He did not make me believe any more deeply in Santa Claus, but rather in something more lasting.
I don’t remember a single thing he said to me, I only remember how he spoke to me, not as a child, but as a budding reader. And I remember how I felt after my mom and I headed home: that reading was the most important way to spend my time. That the world was available to me within the pages of a book. I came away believing in a different kind of magic. The magic of the written word.
That magic has never left me. And I have always remained deeply connected to Canadian writers and the stories that they tell about the lives that can only be lived here. My favourite book, the Diviners, is by a Canadian author, Margaret Laurence.
There is much to be learned from Mowat’s work. He was an activist and a controversial figure. For me, he was a catalyst to read and learn more.
You never know when the devil might come calling – Farley Mowat.